There’s an explosive situation taking place right now in the video game journalism ring. Gamers are angry about many of the practices employed by the current media empire (or should I say, fading media empire?) as well as the negative spin and culturally damaging narrative that some sites have put into place regarding the depiction of the video game community. Caught up in all of this are accusations of ethical breaches, claims of misogyny and a lot of vitriol to spread around. There’s no such thing as saying none of it is true, just the same as there’s no such thing as saying all of it is true. However, in light of recent events gamers came to learn that some of their suspicions have held more weight than they might have thought.
Former writer for Destructoid, Allistair Pinsof, came forward to discuss his side of a very complex and ethically delicate situation. Pinsof outed an IndieGoGo program for its fraudulent intent, but did so at the cost potentially putting the individual behind the program in an unsavory light within the public view. This action cost him his job, his income and his career as a video game journalist, especially so after it was revealed that his firing was tied to the Game Journo Pro list – and actions committed by the Game Journo Pros could be construed as illegal in the state of Florida, where he was employed [You can also read up more on the Game Journo Pros via Breitbart].
Not only that, but the private e-mails revealed that Pinsof was given contradictory information from his higher ups both regarding his firing and his course of action regarding the IndieGoGo campaign.
After Pinsof’s story got out, Destructoid owner Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez stepped forward to issue his take on the situation. He wanted people to know what his site stood for and the difficulty in making the decisions that he made, saying…
“How exactly is it collusion when I very openly expressed my feelings on the web’s biggest gaming industry forum, and LATER nudged others not following that conversation?
“You also failed to notice my tone change *after* his personal attacks and insults, which were also public on twitter, reddit, and so on — which hd of course deleted but I have screenshots of.
“That was key to his firing. Just as its ok to gather a mob on twitter to retweet angry blogs Im surely entitled to tell my friends who was an asshole.
“Beyond proof, he disobeyed my wishes, who is his boss, from hour zero. You do this as vice president or retail cashier and youre fired. End of story. What followed is a mess that you can color any way you want.
“And I say “boss” laughingly. [sic]”
The situation caught fire with a lot of people and resulted in plenty of uproar from the public. Yanier claims that the event involving the Game Journo Pros wasn’t collusion, and this is echoed by a fellow member of the Game Journo Pros group, Scott Nichols a former contributor to IGN and G4TV, who took to ask.fm [backup] to directly answer questions regarding this situation, stating…
“As for the GameJournoPros group involvement, Neiro approached the group asking for advice on how to handle the situation, and the group provided advice. That is the group working as intended. In his post, Neiro was very clearly learning toward firing him anyway, and as your link corroborates, many of the responses were telling him that there’s probably a reason he has the gut feeling and should follow it. Common advice was also to consult legal counsel, which is pretty standard advice in any firing situation. This is not conspiring, this is one professional asking advice on a delicate situation from their peers.”
According to Florida state laws, it is conspiring when multiple employers come together to purposefully exclude someone from employment. As mentioned, “at will” firings don’t supersede unlawful employer collusion, also known as employment blacklisting, listed in the Florida Senate Statues…
“Wrongful combinations against workers.—If two or more persons shall agree, conspire, combine or confederate together for the purpose of preventing any person from procuring work in any firm or corporation, or to cause the discharge of any person from work in such firm or corporation; or if any person shall verbally or by written or printed communication, threaten any injury to life, property or business of any person for the purpose of procuring the discharge of any worker in any firm or corporation, or to prevent any person from procuring work in such firm or corporation, such persons so combining shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
The above law looks tangentially related to the situation when Destructoid’s editor-in-chief, Dale North, used the Game Journo Pros list to warn editors, managers and owners of other competing sites to ignore and avoid talking with Allistair Pinsof about his firing, any ethical breaches that occurred, or getting his side of the story out. Pinsof later figured out that he was being blackballed when no other gaming websites would even look over the evidence or talk to him about the situation. That’s where Pinsof’s career as a game journalist came to an end [You can read his side of the story in this pastebin file].
Scott Nichols further addresses the above scenario by stating…
“The second GameJournoPros involvement was when North posted in the group that Pinsof was trying to contact editors for work again. If that linked article had any commitment to honesty, it would have also shown that past the joke responses to North were responses that they already weren’t planning to work with him due to his prior irresponsible ethical breach, or people saying they forgot about that situation and thanking for the heads up about a freelancer of questionable ethics.
One of the other functions that the group serves is for editors to share with other editors which freelancers are good/bad to work with. This is not conspiring either. It was never the group coming together saying “nobody hire this guy” it was bunch of individual editors saying “Oh god, him again? I wasn’t going to hire that guy anyway because of how he conducted himself previously.” But to your question, no, I do not think it is a problem for the group to be used to inform editors of writers who have low ethical standards in their writing. He blacklisted himself through his actions, not because the group conspired to make him some untouchable writer.”
While Nichols may believe this is not “conspiring”, it does constitute as employment blacklisting, according to the Florida law stated above.
Nevertheless, Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez, the owner of Destructoid, felt as if it was a hard decision no matter what…
“Destructoid is my hobby. Its a blog and there are blog contributors. I dont enjoy deleting stories or ruining the lives of others in my free time. Dozens of people have left dtoid on good terms and their work is up there.
“You really have to cross me to have me delete and ban you. You also mentioned Hollie, who physically hit my employee over heresay and bragged about it, then deleyed her tweets. But I cant delete her blogs? You tell me about where the double standards end.
“I dont have to take anyone’s insults.
“Im not a newspaper or government service that swears to forever host stories. Nowhere on my site does it say we are journalists. We clown out journalists constantly.
“This is my hobby.
“I do this because I love videogames and gamers. [sic]”
For those that don’t know, Holly Green used to be an employee at Destructoid. There are some further allegations regarding her behavior, misconduct and abuse, and how Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez was forced to fire her after the team at Destructoid had exhausted all of their efforts to make it a safe and amiable working atmosphere.
However, there is more to that story and it will be discussed in a separate article.
Gonzalez goes on to state that…
“One pride point of dtoid is our open community. Its important to me because hardcore gamers like me (even in 2006) used to be labeled freaks and degenerates and we needed our own forums.
“I find it devestating that people forget that and have turned on site operators like me now that the internet is more social.
“Still, Im not a corporation. I run dtoid out of my kitchen.
“I may be small and what I said about this guy may be crude and unprofessional, but I dial it all back that he was a total asshole to me.
“I have my pride.
“I dont have to host the blogs of anyone that slanders me and throws a fit. Why should I show horrible people any compassion?
“These kids think they can act like animals with no repercussions.
“I stand by my decision and you can call it “collusion” but anyone else will see that I went out of my way to consult a vast number of smarter people than me to make the right call. [sic]”
Technically the “collusion” only comes from Florida’s description of the law regarding employment blacklisting. Nevertheless, it wasn’t Gonzalez who made the comment in the Game Journo Pros group, even though he was part of the group. It was actually Dale North, the editor-in-chief at Destructoid.
I reached out to Dale for comment as to whether or not it was orders passed down from management or if he acted on his own accord to have cohorts from competing websites avoid talking to Allistair Pinsof, but as of the writing of this article, Dale North has not responded to my inquiries.
Aside from the situation regarding the firing of Allistair, Gonzalez points out that…
“I cant name an industry where peers dont discuss each other. We all do it daily on linkedin in private groups.
“None of this is “normal”. These are two very young and angry kids I never should have worked with in the first place.
“And its all thankless.
“Nobody pities me for giving them a break in the biz or paying for their airfare to visit conventions and hotel or paying them to write about gaming. Thats all on my broke ass.
“I get that people want to see more of those conversations, but the lack of privacy, the constant private company email republishing (far more unprofessional than anything I have said/done) is just making people like me reconsider wanting to devote my free time to gaming communities.
“We’re all going to lose more talent if this hashtag rhetoric doesnt see good (and forgivably flawed) people between the lines.
“Its a sad time to love this industry. [sic]”
It is indeed a sad time to love this industry.
Nevertheless, the consumer is always right. If gaming community wants to see reform then that’s what they’re going to fight for. Ironically enough, Destructoid was one of the few websites that did alter their policies on transparency. Gamers, however, are very concerned about the damage that’s being done to the industry by massive false claims of misogyny and harassment being levied at the gaming industry from sites that they no longer trust.
Unfortunately, this situation won’t end until everything is finally dragged out into the open and laid bare. The sooner full disclosure happens the sooner #GamerGate ends. The longer this goes on the more damage it does to everyone involved in the games journalism ring.
In fact, the future of games journalism is a choice that rests in the hands of the journalists, as coming clean sooner rather than later will make it easier on everyone.
[Disclosure: I was a former member of the Game Journo Pros e-mail group]